Buying toothpaste used to be simple but now we're confronted with dozens of brands on the supermarket shelves all promising similar things.
Dentist Dr Philippa Sawyer joins TODAY to advise which ones are the best for you.
Toothpaste – The Facts:
- Toothpaste is a gel or paste type of substance which is applied to a toothbrush to clean the teeth. This mainly white substance removes particles of food and plaque from your teeth and prevents bad breath (halitosis) as well.
- Toothpaste contains a range of ingredients, for example fluoride which helps to protect the teeth against tooth decay and gum disease.
- Toothpaste is an important part of a daily dental care routine and dentists recommend that people use it twice a day. Ideally, you would brush your teeth after every meal but failing that, twice a day will do.
- When buying toothpaste, there are many factors to keep in mind. Many toothpastes are specially formulated to combat a specific problem or situation and may not be right for everyone. When shopping for toothpaste, it is important to become familiar with specific types of toothpaste, and to determine which is right for you and your family.
- You will find that a great many toothpastes contain the same ingredients but some will have an added emphasis on a particular ingredient. One example is a particular flavouring such as mint. Toothpaste is comprised of several ingredients which include: A 'binder' (holds the ingredients together) such as sodium alginate, chalk or baking soda, a foam based compound which helps to remove food debris from the teeth, e.g. sodium lauryl sulphate, an ingredient called a 'humectant' which ensures that the toothpaste is moist, a flavouring such as mint, fluoride, water, anti-bacterial agent (prevent gum disease). These ingredients are weighed, mixed together in a large vat and passed through a filling machine and into tubes.
- Toothpaste has a long history; one that goes back 4,000 years to be exact! People then used a wide variety of substances to clean their teeth which include sand, ground up fish bones and salt! It wasn't until the late nineteenth century that toothpaste first appeared in tubes and the mid twentieth century when fluoride was added to toothpaste for the first time.
- Toothpaste has certainly moved on since then and is available as a gel, paste, with 'stripes' etc. Nowadays there is a brand of toothpaste to cater for everyone's needs. And, there are even toothpastes for dogs, for example liver flavoured canine toothpaste!
Different types of toothpaste
Some consumers are concerned about the buildup of fluoride in the body. Because drinking water in many areas is fluoridated, people now have more cavity protection than in the past. However, an excess amount of fluoride in the body can cause fluorosis, a demineralization of tooth enamel and bone. This is because fluoride accumulates in the body and does not biodegrade. Concerned about this, many people are turning to fluoride-free toothpaste, claiming that they receive enough fluoride in drinking water
Tartar Control Toothpaste
Many people buy tartar control toothpaste to combat tartar. Tartar is a build-up of calculus minerals on the teeth that cannot be removed by brushing, but only by a professional dental cleaning. Tartar control toothpastes contain pyrophosphates which can control tartar build-up and prevent cavities. Tartar control toothpastes can help control tartar build-up, but only above the gumline. They have no effect on any kind of periodontal disease
As the quest for whiter and whiter teeth continues, whitening toothpastes have become even more popular. Whitening toothpastes can remove stains on the teeth and make the teeth appear whiter. Some whitening toothpastes actually contain harsh abrasives, which can initially remove stains, but over time wear away the tooth enamel and cause the teeth to appear more yellow. Other whitening toothpastes contain hydrogen peroxide or calcium peroxide, which is said to whiten the teeth without abrasive action. However, experts disagree about if this is actually effective
Not everyone is comfortable with the chemicals present in many commercial toothpastes. Some brands of toothpaste use only natural ingredients, including substances such as tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic, and calcium carbonate, to naturally scrub teeth. These natural toothpastes are perfect for those who do not want to purchase toothpaste with harsh chemicals, as they do not include sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemical that can severely irritate skin, or artificial flavors or colors
Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
There are many causes of dentin hypersensitivity, the scientific name for sensitive teeth, and more and more people are suffering from this condition. Regardless of the cause, however, sensitive teeth are painful, and sufferers often look to specialized toothpaste to dull the pain. Toothpastes which contain strontium chloride actually cause minerals to cover and insulate pores in the exposed tooth root, blocking the sensitive root from cold foods or other stimuli which can cause pain. The market for sensitive teeth toothpaste is rapidly growing, with many toothpaste brands offering toothpaste specially designed for different levels of sensitivity
Children's toothpaste often comes in colorful packages, which are designed to be both attractive to children and less messy than regular toothpaste, sometimes in a stand-up squeeze tube. Children's toothpaste is also available in flavors which are specifically targeted to children, such as bubble gum and watermelon, and sometimes include non-toxic sparkles in the toothpaste. Adults can use children's toothpaste but often do not find the flavors appealing. Some toothpastes are now available for toddlers which are fluoride free and therefore safe for swallowing. Children can move up to fluoridated toothpaste when they understand that they should not swallow the toothpaste
Within each of these categories, toothpastes vary in ingredients, color, texture, and flavor. You may need to experiment to see which toothpaste becomes your family's favorite. Always check with your dentist if you have a specific dental condition and wish to know which toothpaste is best for you.